Thursday afternoon, May 15, as the Cocos fire in San Marcos rushed into west Escondido, residents who'd been watching the eerie-colored sky and sneezing against the airborne ash finally got the evacuation order they'd been expecting.
Kimberly Panno had already left her west Escondido home, near the Palomar Medical Center, taking her daughter and four dogs to safety at her mother's house. She returned to the ridge about a tenth of a mile above her home to check on her husband, Randy Panno, who had told his wife more than two hours earlier that he had also left their home of more than a decade.
There he was, going back and forth between classic cars in the driveway of the home. From the ridge about 150 feet above the Hidden Hills valley — between the evacuated Stone Brewery and the medical center, where security staff was on high alert — Panno watched her husband finally choose the Corvette to drive away from their home. She didn't immediately call him, though she could have.
"I'm going to be giving him a strong message," she said. "He told me two hours ago that he evacuated and there he is."
She pointed to the houses around hers, each on about an acre of land, and to the sides of the bowl that are owned by a developer. Of the eight or so properties, only the Panno homestead and a neighbor’s had been cleared of brush. The neighbors' eucalyptus trees drape over the Panno home.
"That's my issue. We work our butts off to fireproof our place — at the cost of not having great-looking landscape, and then the neighbors make it possible for our home to burn up," Panno said. "Nobody enforces the clearing rules. So we just hope we get lucky and the neighbors don't burn."